Want to save money on food? Try home canning

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Make a list. Look for sales. Buy house brands. Not a day goes by without some tips from the media to address the rising cost of food. Rarely, though, is there a mention of home canning.

Canning food is something that people associate with their grandmother or great-grandmother, but if you look a bit more closely, there is still a large canning community in the 21st century. There are more than 40 canning groups on Facebook.

I thought myself a thrifty cook until I met Rosanne Patterson, who gives a whole new meaning to home economics. Patterson started canning for budgetary reasons in her early 20s, when she and her husband were students. After her family expanded, meal preparation became a more serious endeavor. With six growing children to feed, canning continued to be part of her “power cooking” repertoire.

Owning both a waterbath and pressure canner, Patterson cans everything. That turkey carcass that usually lands in the garbage is turned into broth for future soups. A windfall of blueberries is a year’s supply of blueberry lime jam. When chicken is on sale, she cans up a batch for use in enchiladas and stir fry suppers. Supply chain issues are not a problem in the Patterson household.

Besides the convenience, there are other advantages to canning. Patterson pointed out that she uses the freshest ingredients and doesn’t have to worry about BPA and preservatives. Because she buys fruit and vegetables locally, her food travels directly from the field to her shelf. Canning jars are reused, so it also has little environmental impact.

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Practical reasons notwithstanding, canning her own food has a personal touch. Each recipe that she cans is done with the taste preferences of her family in mind.

Patterson’s canning choices depend on local availability, but neither hell nor high water keeps her from making her favorite tomato salsa. It is a mainstay on her homemade burrito lunch, and her husband’s favorite dip. Her goal is to make 100 pints for the year.

Below is a scaled-down version of her recipe. The salsa is fairly mild. You can adjust the pepper ratios if you would like it hotter.

Rosanne Patterson is a super-canner. She buys her fruit and vegetables locally in season and puts up a year’s worth of her family’s favorite recipes. Canning can help reduce the effect of price shocks at the grocery store. Canned foods can include things like soup stock, jam and salsa. (Julie Falsetti photo/For The York Dispatch)

Salsa

Note: Local tomatoes for canning are still available at Lutz Produce, 294 Springvale Road near Red Lion.

  • 5 pounds tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup finely diced onions
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 bell peppers, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced jalapeño or serrano peppers

Wash and core tomatoes, removing any scars or rotten spots. Peel the tomatoes by placing them, a few at a time, into a pot of boiling water, for 30-60 seconds (depending on ripeness). When cool enough to handle, remove the skins.

Quarter the tomatoes and place into a large slow cooker turned on high. Allow the tomatoes to cook until softened and beginning to disintegrate, checking them after 2 hours. Use a spoon to break up larger chunks of tomatoes. You may choose to leave the cooked tomatoes somewhat chunky, or break them down to a smoother consistency, depending on your preference.

Add all other ingredients to the slow cooker and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until peppers and onions have softened, at least 1 more hour. To achieve your desired consistency, some water may be removed manually or allowed to evaporate.

Prepare your boiling water bath. Ladle salsa into clean canning jars, leaving a half-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles from salsa, if needed. Wipe jar rims with a paper towel dipped in vinegar, and screw bands on finger tight. Process in boiling water bath, 15 minutes for pints and half pints, 20 minutes for quarts.

Remove the jars from the canner to a kitchen towel on the counter. Enjoy the sounds of success as your jar lids begin to "ping" as they seal! Allow jars to stand and cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove screw-on bands, wipe the jars, and label with contents, month and year. Salsa is shelf-stable indefinitely. Any jars that have not sealed should be refrigerated and used first.

This recipe makes approximately 6 pints.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.

Rosanne Patterson is a super-canner. She buys her fruit and vegetables locally in season and puts up a year’s worth of her family’s favorite recipes. Canning can help reduce the effect of price shocks at the grocery store. Canned foods can include things like soup stock, jam and salsa. (Julie Falsetti photo/For The York Dispatch)